Trinity Celebrates Disability Rights as Human Rights

Lecture, Film and “Day in a Wheelchair” to highlight Human Rights Week

What: Human Rights Week will focus on the issue of Disability Rights, marked by a lecture by Michael Stein, co-founder and executive director of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability; “A Day in a Wheelchair” featuring 25 representatives of the campus community spending a day in a wheelchair; and a movie about Iraq War veterans who have returned to the United States with disabilities and who excel in competitive athletics. Human Rights Week is sponsored by Trinity’s Human Rights Program. The lecture and film are free and open to the public. View the event poster

When: The Stein lecture is Monday, December 3 at 4:15 p.m.; “A Day in a Wheelchair” is Wednesday, December 5; and the movie, Warrior Champions, is Thursday, December 6 at 7 p.m.

Where: The Stein lecture is in Rittenberg Lounge in Mather Hall on the Trinity campus, and Warrior Champions will be shown in the Boyer Auditorium of Albert C. Jacobs Life Sciences Center.

Background: Human Rights Week has been organized by Trinity’s Human Rights Program to recognize International Human Rights Day on Monday, December 10, the day the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. The preamble to that declaration reads, in part:

“THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY proclaims THIS UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations, to the end that every individual and every organ of society, keeping this Declaration constantly in mind, shall strive by teaching and education to promote respect for these rights and freedoms and by progressive measures, national and international, to secure their universal and effective recognition and observance, both among the peoples of Member States themselves and among the peoples of territories under their jurisdiction.”

About 15 percent of the world’s population, or more than 1 billion people, live with some form of disability. The rights of persons with disabilities are a relatively new addition to human rights discourse, with an international treaty on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities taking effect in 2008.

“We wanted to explore how this group of persons has been marginalized historically as well as raise awareness on campus,” said Sonia Cardenas, Director of the Human Rights Program. “Thinking about ‘disability’ inclusively, in the context of human rights, should make us all more accepting of our diversities and attuned to our basic commonness.”

Courses at Trinity this semester – including “International Human Rights Law” and an American Studies seminar on disability in literature and culture – have approached the topic from various angles. 

In addition to his role with the Harvard Law School Project on Disability, Stein is Cabell Professor at William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, VA. An internationally acclaimed expert on disability law and policy, Stein participated in the drafting of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. He works with disabled persons and organizations around the world, consults with international governments on their disability laws and policies, and advises UN groups.

“A Day in a Wheelchair” is an event in which 25 members of the Trinity community can experience what it is like to have a mobility impairment. Participants, including Dean of Students Frederick Alford, have been selected to represent a broad spectrum of groups on campus. The idea originated with Kristin Duquette ’13, a human rights major. According to Duquette and Sean Snyder ’13, who is also a human rights major and an organizer of the event, “A Day in a Wheelchair” is designed to be an empowering and positive experience while shattering the stereotype of what it’s like to be wheelchair-bound.

The goal is for members of the campus community to become aware of the accessible routes on campus and realize that having a disability doesn’t impair one’s contributions. Participants will be interviewed and filmed afterward, and asked to reflect on their experiences.

Warrior Champions is a powerful account of Iraq War veterans who returned to the US with disabilities and then excelled in competitive athletics.  The film will be introduced by Duquette, herself a Paralympic swimmer, followed by a brief discussion with some of the participants from “A Day in a Wheelchair.”  The film is co-sponsored by the Athletics Department.

For more information, please contact Sean Snyder at or Sonia Cardenas at